Poetry

“Goodnight, Whoever You Are” by Michael Robins

Must be a gift to shrug what others shoulder,
what’s blown from the rooftop & nonetheless
asleep, not I swear another flooded forfeit,

catalogue of a poor magician staged & reciting
daily harm, run-of-the-mill regret. Evenings
I read a thing or two on Mozart, cause of death

unknown or working yet as a janitor in Nebraska
where he paces under rain. If I turn yesterday
I’m a ghost, nothing myself. Maybe a ninny,

blue & motley, rolling the tired semicircle
sidewise in a plastic August breeze, one sheet
& on my way to the wind. When the drunks quit,

quake & sweat or when they bat each other
my good eye wins, tracks twice to the window
against which a future checks its teeth, meets

&, behind the beveled glass, imagines marriage,
pledge & fruit of every American billboard,
then finally knocks. I’d nothing brainy to say

(oh Nebraska, I mean Amherst), stood anyway
as if the fields knew my name. Faceless hills,
lamps of summer in galaxy gray, we touch & go

toward war like a thousand birds, apparent death
before the engines howl & lift a chimney brick
or recover from the splash with a fish. It falls

now to the neighbors & only later did we leave
ill-manner in water, walk without remembering
each relic of a rusted trampoline, bed spring

& washing machine, the conversation held years
where we planted feet like we’d stay, pleased
our umbrella didn’t cartwheel past the reel

overgrown in firefly & thicket both. We crested
like a wrongheaded tune, flickered & nodding
& knowing that touch & go meant Massachusetts,

home, a surfeit of skunks for who can really say
how many afternoons will gnaw our corners,
our resolve along the bumper-to-bumper cars

stalled & sunk. Twice today that low memory
moved the horizon, swept me near the exit
like tinder inhales, like kisses flare & not anyone

thinks anything but fire. I rouse to the credits
casual & free, merge with the midday shine
raising a finger to the temple, my ready thumb

tempted among the shadows gone, & their trees.

 

Michael Robins is the author of four collections of poetry, including In Memory of Brilliance & Value (2015) and People You May Know (2020), both from Saturnalia Books. He lives in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.

 


Photo: “When I Walk Away I Notice” by Courtney Bernardo